Many years ago, as my personal-growth journey was expanding, I strived to find the fundamental principals of success that would be consistent to the entire personal development industry. I was happy to find some of these principals, yet I was shocked as I noticed that one principal would contradict another! What was going on? “There’s no ultimate truth,” I thought, “just everyone’s personal version of it.”
Have you noticed contradictions from one book to the next, from one speaker to the next, or from one seminar to the next? How do we account for these inconsistencies? Do they devalue the benefits of personal development? Here’s what I’ve learned along my journey . . .
Contradictions aren’t confined to the personal development industry. They are a part of life, and they are everywhere. Have you heard the phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword” or the phrase, “actions speak louder than words?” Which one is true? Is it possible for both of them to be true? In our complex world, I would submit that it depends. We can dissect the two statements and discover under what circumstances and under what conditions each would be more valid.
Is this an isolated example? If you think so, consider “opposites attract” compared to “birds of a feather flock together.” Try “look before you leap” compared to “he who hesitates has lost.” How about “absence makes the heart grow fonder” compared to “out of sight, out of mind?” My personal favorite is “knowledge is power” compared to “ignorance is bliss.” I’m sure you can think of some of your own . . .
2. A Contradiction May Really Be A Paradox
Here’s a mini-distinction: A contradiction is when two ideas explicitly negate each other. A paradox, on the other hand, represents two opposite ideas that, once understood, actually make sense and complement each other. Here’s an example:
There’s the story of the fly who keeps banging its head against the glass window. It doesn’t realize that there’s a window, so it keeps trying. Unfortunately, it keeps trying until it dies of exhaustion. Some would say that insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. The lesson here is “if you want a different result, do something different.”
What about the story of the rock-cutter who keeps axing his rock over and over again? After ninety-nine hits, the rock is still solid. On the hundredth hit of the axe, the rock splits in two! Was it the hundredth hit that was so powerful, or was it the persistence of the ninety-nine hits? “Keep trying and you’ll eventually get what you want” is the lesson here.
Both these stories make valid points, even though their morals seemingly contradict each other. Since both stories are true and have merit, what we have here is a paradox.
3. A Paradox Adds Depth to Our Understanding
Mark Victor Hansen once said that personal development can be generalized down to four words: “Tell the truth . . . faster.” Understanding ourselves, our emotions, our minds, and our world is what helps us to grow personally. The quicker we are able to acknowledge such truths and be completely authentic with ourselves and with others about the truth, the more we will grow personally. This is the “rational” way of being (there are absolute truths to be learned).
In the metaphysical paradigm, we may be taught that “what we confess, we possess.” From this perspective, we speak what we want into existence. Our beliefs become our reality. This teaching is known as “existentialism” (everybody’s truth is unique and subject to one’s experiences and interpretations). And, this teaching is on the opposite side of the spectrum of Mark Victor Hansen’s four words.
I call this the fundamental paradox of personal development. Do we discover the truth and then speak it, or do we create the truth we want by speaking it first? Remember that a paradox can help us understand life at a deeper level. It may not be simple, a one-sentence summary to explain all of creation, yet it is powerful. A paradox reminds us that for every situation in life, we need to keep in mind our context and purpose, before resorting to a given generalization.
Let’s love the world together…
Danish Ahmed, blind visionary
“I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.”
~ Mother Teresa (1910-1997); founder of the Missionaries of Charity